Why AIGA? | Outgoing Directors Share Their Stories

What do directors do? How do they feel about their time volunteering for AIGA West Michigan? (Yes, AIGA West Michigan is a 100% volunteer-driven organization!) Get to know our current outgoing directors through their stories.

Board applications due April 30, 2020.
Terms begin June 1st, 2020.

Apply today!




Lauren Andersh
Programming Director

When I first moved back to West Michigan and was trying to get involved, someone told me I just really needed to figure out how to get in with the programming team— “they meet all the cool people” and frankly, I couldn’t agree more. Fast forward a few weeks and I was on the programming committee. Two years after that, I took over as the programming director.

Within this role, I oversee a committee of about 6-8 people. As a group, we manage, plan, and execute every event that AIGA WM does. We get to pick who comes to speak, what we focus on, and which events we do (with lots of outside input, of course). We get lots of feedback and have all kinds of interaction with our members. It comes with a built-in network of some of the greatest creatives, locally and nationally.

After nearly four years with this group, I can safely say it’s been one of the greatest experiences of my professional (and social!) career. This board is an impressive and fun group. I’ve met people who are now friends, who’ve helped me get jobs, who’ve energized me creatively, who’ve introduced me to new food, designers, books, and so much more. Has it been busy? Yes! Overwhelming? Somedays. Rewarding? All of the time. While I think it’s time for someone new to take over this role, this has been the best opportunity I could’ve asked for and I would encourage anyone and everyone to get involved.

Apply or nominate someone for this position



Vinicius Lima
Education Director

I moved from Iowa City to Grand Rapids for my job. I took a position as Assistant Professor at Grand Valley State University. I did not know anyone here but my students and work colleagues. Even though I teach for a living, I am as introverted as they come. But, still, Design is about making connections, collaborating, and meeting like-minded individuals, right? One day I get an email inviting designers to know more about AIGA WM’s programming committee and I was hooked. Everyone was so passionate about advocating for design and helping the creative community. I decided to join and helped programming for almost two years.

In 2018, I left the programming committee to become the education director. In this role, I promote design education to high school students, college students, recent graduates, and those who found their way into a design but not necessarily went to school for it. I manage a small committee with two members (we’re looking for more, by the way) and work closely with our student representative and other board members on education-based initiatives. I have helped put together career events for high school students, portfolio reviews, and a mentoring program.

When I look back and think of all the ways AIGA helped me grow, the list only has positive things. I have become a better leader at work, I improved my communication skills with a remote team, but the most important thing is one: my network ballooned. I have met so, so many smart, kind, helpful, talented, impactful, passionate people over these years, in West Michigan and all over the country. It’s great when you find your community and people who get you, you know? AIGA did just that. It has been an amazing opportunity.

If you were to ask me if I recommend joining AIGA and the board, I would say: Without a doubt, yes! You will not regret it.

Apply or nominate someone for this position



Sara Klele
Membership Director

Before joining the board I had been a frequent attendee of community design events and had even volunteered to help occasionally at AIGA WM events but wasn’t a member and wasn’t really engaged with the organization. I was also feeling really uninspired, unfulfilled, and bored with my work. So when Gwen O’Brien, the president of AIGA WM at the time and a long-time friend and colleague, reached out to me to help spearhead the planning of the first West Michigan Design Week it seemed like a new way to challenge myself and thought it might be fun to meet new people. (It absolutely was!) I had been working for myself for almost eight years and the idea of joining a team again was a major draw.

From 2013-2016, as the WM Design Week chair (part of the programming committee), I led a team to plan, prepare, and execute a week full of events each spring. In doing so I gained leadership skills, public speaking skills, organizational skills, and SO many new friends and business contacts. In 2016 the programming director role became available and I was encouraged into taking it on. With it, the shared responsibility of managing the entire programming calendar and committee. Creating the calendar with the committee and board was certainly a lot of work, but incredibly rewarding. So much so that I wasn’t ready to totally step away when my term ended. So, in 2018, I took over the membership director position.

As membership director, I focused on understanding our membership more using data collected digitally and through personal conversations, which helped to inform our goals as a chapter. We’ve focused on building a sense of community among our members and have plans in place to continue that work moving forward.

After more than six years serving AIGA WM, it’s time for me to step back when my term ends next month. I’m looking forward to refocusing on my business with so much more excitement and energy than I had before this journey started. The volunteer time and energy put into the organization have enriched my life and my work in more ways than I can express. It opened doors to new paths in my career, not just through new contacts but through fields of design I didn’t know anything about before. If you’re looking for a way to grow, give back, or meet new people please apply to join the board or a committee. I can’t recommend getting involved enough!

Apply or nominate someone for this position



Gabby Podkul
Student Representative

As a graphic design student at KCAD, the entire community was always telling us to get involved in AIGA. I joined our student group, not knowing the impact AIGA would have on my life. I immersed myself in the club and eventually became the student representative for the West Michigan chapter.

This role has challenged and helped me grow not only as a creative but as a person. AIGA has been a key conduit in transitioning from being a student into a professional. The people involved in this community are a constant source of inspiration, support, and dedication. As a student, the most important thing is knowing when you graduate you will continue to make meaningful connections. AIGA has always pushed me to make connections out of my comfort zone that continues to challenge the way I think about design.

Some fun things I have experienced being on the board is seeing the behind the scenes planning of Design Week, helping plan student events during Emerge Week, attending the national conference, and meeting fellow design students from West Michigan colleges. If you are currently a student looking for a larger role in the design community, I wholeheartedly would recommend becoming a part of the AIGA West Michigan board.

Apply or nominate someone for this position



Now is the time!

When board terms end we need local design leaders and enthusiasts to step up to fill their vacancies and commit to a term of service. Get involved and give back today so that we can continue to benefit and grow design in West Michigan tomorrow. See all of our open board and committee positions.


By AIGA West Michigan
Published April 27, 2020